Welcome to the May newsletter. A musical start to the month, with the Mistress and I going to the Barbican to listen to the finals of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama Gold Medal competition. GSMD was founded by the City of London Corporation in 1880 and is supported financially by many Livery companies. The competition alternates between singers and instrumental players, with previous winners including Jacqueline du Pre and Bryn Terfel. This year the finalists were a harpist, a clarinettist and a double bass player, each playing a concerto for his instrument.The double bass prevailed, in a concerto by Nino Rota, who also wrote much film music including the 'Godfather' scores.

The following week was a busy one, starting with the Clergy Support Trust service at St Paul’s. The Livery Masters process in and out (strictly in order of precedence) and the multitude of gaily coloured gowns, some with furtrimmings, provides a spectacle for the congregation. As always, a challenge for Master Mercer because if he sits down or stands up at the wrong point, all other Masters follow suit. Lovely music from three different Cathedral choirs.


The next day was dry and sunny, a blessing given that it was 8 May and our Annual Banquet at Merchant Taylors’ Hall. Over 180 guests were able to enjoy champagne in the courtyard, a good meal in the Hall and entertainment from Adrian Mumford, Clerk to the Plumbers and Senior Assistant of the Musicians, playing on the organ. We were joined by 25 Swedish members of the Masons’ Guild in Stockholm (Murmestare) who engaged enthusiastically with the traditional forms of a Livery dinner - Beadle, multiple toasts, multiple wines, sung grace and speeches. Their own dinners are less formal,but they do have a lovely hall in Stockholm. The plan is for us to make a return visit in the next year or two. A letter from their delegation leader, Svante Hagman, was circulated with this Newsletter.


The main speaker was the Very Rev’d Mark Oakley, the Dean of Southwark, who gave an address that was both moving and funny, a difficult thing to achieve. He mentioned the very close links between our Company and his Cathedral: see our Company book "They Built London".

The following morning, a group of us had a meeting with some of the Swedish Masons and we discussed ways of staying in touch. Heather and I then made our way to Goldsmiths’ Hall to witness the verdict of the Trial of the Pyx. 


This is an ancient proceeding, during which a random selection of coins (some coins newly minted for circulation and some commemorative coins) supplied by the Mint are tested by skilled jurors from the Goldsmiths’ Company. The coins have to comply with strict requirements as to size, shape and, importantly, weight. On rare occasions, the coins fail their trial, and this a big embarrassment for the Royal Mint and the Government. The Government takes the trial seriously and we were joined at the lunch by a Treasury Minister and numerous officials from HM Treasury and the Bank of England. The Ts and Bs are not usually invited to the Trial of the Pyx, but probably our booking of the hall for our Craft Awards in March made a difference.

That evening, another very hot day, I made my way to Mercers’ Hall past crowds of City workers spilling out from pubs and wine bars. A great sight for those of us who love the City. Master Mercer kindly entertains all the Masters to drinks and there was a very good attendance. According to our WhatsApp group, many Masters stayed the full two hours and then found a pub until closing time, but I beat a modest retreat to Waterloo, since I had two more engagements on the Friday.

Both the NFRC and the Tile Association held their annual awards event on 10 May. I joined the former at lunch in the O2, meeting up with many members including Ian Wilson, Andy Rowlands, Keith Aldis, Jason Wright, Bob Richardson and Bob Coutts, then had to exit quietly to catch a train to Birmingham. 

The Tile Awards were held at the Hilton Hotel NEC, and the Tile Association kindly put the Mistress and me up for the night in the hotel. 

I had acted as a judge for the Tile Awards so was keen to see whether my relatively unskilled choices coincided with the eventual winners. In some cases, yes, which was reassuring. Gilly and I had a great evening and were able to talk to Bob Howard, Kay Porter and Brian Newell amongst others.

13 May found me back at Carpenters’ Hall, for a lecture sponsored by the Plumbers. This was on the work of Save the Children, focusing on clean and dirty water issues in areas experiencing conflict (such as Rafah at the moment).

On the Tuesday I went down to Bromley, where Michael Ash showed me round the premises of the Freddie Farmer Foundation. This charity provides physiotherapy and other forms of support for children and young people suffering from palsy or other disabling conditions. It is doing a great job in the Bromley area and supplying a need that is not met by the NHS. I met Freddie, who is a keen Millwall fan and manages to get to away games in his wheelchair as well as watching the home fixtures. Our charities have supported the Foundation with grants in the past.

On 20 May I went to County Hall for the memorial evening celebrating the life of Geoff Mann. I don’t think many of us in the Company appreciated what a full and high profile life Geoff had. He was a leading architect in London and acted for the overseas investor who purchased County Hall when it ceased to house the GLC. The building was re- purposed to include flats, restaurants and hotels. The old debating chamber was retained and that is where we sat to hear colourful stories about his life. He was a good enough pianist to give public concerts and we heard a piece from the violinist he frequently played with. He designed the football stadium for Coventry City and travelled all round the country supporting them – he was made a director of the club. And he owned a small private railway in Scotland.

MN_May_2024_4.jpgPM George Bird and CA Martin Reading also attended the evening. On the following day, Gilly and I set off for the Goring Hotel dressed very formally – it was the day of the Buckingham Palace Garden Party. 

A dozen Masters and their consorts enjoyed an excellent lunch together,before joining the long queue to get in to the Palace grounds. The weather was rainy so visibility inside the gardens was restricted by a sea of umbrellas, and the tea tent was crammed with people huddling away from the rain. Nonetheless it was a great honour to be invited and we explored the very large grounds at our leisure.Passengers on the bus back to Waterloo commented favourably on our costume choices.

Sunday 26th was not an official engagement, but is worth recording. My son George and I were at Wembley to see Southampton win promotion back to the Premiership!

MN_May_2024_5.jpgOn 30 May I returned to the Old Bailey, this time for a reception in aid of SSAFA, the Forces charity.

Beneficiaries of the charity gave an account of their experiences: the charity is directed towards helping thefamilies of servicemen.

The month ended with a lunch back at Merchant Taylors’ Hall, as the guest of Nicholas Carter, who is not only a Past Master of the Ts and Bs but also a Merchant Taylor.

Looking forward to seeing some of you at Brewers’ Hall.

Christopher Causer